Photo of Janine Fletcher-Thomas

On September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed a historic expansion of the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”).  Here’s what California employers need to know about the expanded law, which becomes effective on January 1, 2021:

The new law expands which companies are required to provide job-protected family and medical leave.

  • Businesses with as few as

Today, most Americans live in a jurisdiction that has enacted a “ban-the-box” law (also known as a “fair chance” law).  Ban-the-box laws restrict employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal background at various stages of the hiring process.  The purpose of these laws are to enable an ex-offender to display his or her qualifications in the hiring process before he or she must disclose a criminal record.  In fact, the origin of the laws’ colloquial name is the “box” that initial job applicants must check if they have a prior conviction.  These laws benefit an estimated 70 million people in the United States (or almost one in three U.S. adults) who have prior arrests or convictions.

Currently, there is no federal ban-the-box law generally applicable to private sector employers.  However, on December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the Fair Chance Act (also known as the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019) which prohibits federal agencies and government contractors from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history before making a conditional employment offer, unless a specified exception applies.  The law includes exceptions for law enforcement and national security positions that require access to classified information, and where an employer is legally obligated to conduct a criminal background check before making a conditional employment offer.
Continue Reading North Carolina Also Bans-The-Box

We’ve previously provided general guidance on the challenges facing students, parents and employers this fall.  This post focuses on what employers doing business in California need to consider in response to their employee’s requests for time off work due to school or childcare facility closures.

What are your obligations if an employee is seeking leave to care for children who would be in school or daycare if not for COVID-19 related closures:

  • Does FFCRA apply?
  • Does a state or local Emergency COVID-19 leave law apply in your jurisdiction?
  • Does a paid sick leave law apply in your jurisdiction?
  • Does a company benefit or policy apply?


Continue Reading Back to School Cheat Sheet for Employers: California

We’ve previously provided general guidance on the challenges facing students, parents and employers this fall.  This is the first week of remote school for all Chicago Public School students, and this post focuses on what employers doing business in Illinois need to consider.

The same overarching analysis applies when determining your obligations if an employee is seeking leave to care for children who would be in school if not for COVID-19:

  • Does FFCRA apply?
  • Does a state or local Emergency COVID-19 leave law apply in our jurisdiction?
  • Does a paid sick leave law apply in our jurisdiction?
  • Does a company benefit or policy apply?


Continue Reading Back to School Cheat Sheet for Employers: Illinois

This fall’s return to school will be a challenge for students, parents, and employers alike.  Most states are dealing with a wide array of approaches to begin the school year.  The approaches can generally be categorized in four broad categories:

  1. In-Person: All staff and students are learning onsite.
  2. Hybrid/Blending Learning: To reduce the density in school buildings, students attend school onsite some of time and would be remote learning for the rest of the time.
  3. Only Remote: No students in school buildings and remote learning for all.
  4. Families opting out of school in an abundance of caution and deciding to homeschool.

Like everything related to COVID-19, school re-opening plans are fluid.  Some school districts planned in-person or hybrid returns this fall, but quickly shifted to only remote learning.  Others will likely transition to only remote as the virus continues to spike.  The constant flux has encouraged a sizable population of parents to opt-out of the system and homeschool their children in micro-schools or pandemic pods.  Pods are small groups of children working with an in-person tutor.
Continue Reading Back to School and the FFCRA: A Study Guide

Chicago, the nation’s third largest school district, reversed course and said it would begin the academic year remotely in September.  This shift leaves New York City as one of the only major school systems still planning to offer in-person classes this fall.  Like the spring school shutdown, continued remote learning presents many challenges for working parents.  Many wonder how they can put in full workdays without sacrificing their child’s education, job performance, and sanity.

Rather than ignoring the challenges for employees with school-aged children, employers can proactively act to help their parent employees and mitigate their own legal risks.  Employers are facing employment lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic on a number of fronts and childcare challenges will certainly be an issue.  For example, one recently filed lawsuit by a California woman against her former employer alleges “she was fired because her young children were making noise during business calls while she was working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.”


Continue Reading Getting a Passing Grade When Office + School = Home

In May, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (“FedEx”) will pay $3.3 million dollars and provide programmatic relief to resolve a disability discrimination charge against the company.

Allegations against FedEx

In its Complaint (Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 15-cv-00256 (Western District of Pennsylvania, February 25, 2015) the EEOC alleged that FedEx violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by discriminating against deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who applied for and/or worked in the package handler positions with the company.  To be hired for such positions, applicants must be at least eighteen years old and pass a criminal background check.  Applicants attend a mandatory sort-observation tour (where they see an active package handling shift, observe loading and unloading delivery vehicles, the conveyor systems, scanning, sorting, and the routing of packages), and participate in an interview.


Continue Reading EEOC Delivers Hefty Fine for Disability Discrimination

On May 20, 2020, Chicago’s COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance (the “Ordinance”) came into effect.  The Ordinance bars employers from terminating or demoting employees who take time off for reasons related to COVID-19, including taking time off to care for a family member with COVID-19.  Noncompliance with the Ordinance can be costly, including private litigation and enforcement action by the city.  Employees can win up to three times the wages lost due to their termination plus actual damages and attorney fees.  In an enforcement action, Chicago could impose fines of $1,000 per day per violation.  The Ordinance provides employers with an affirmative defense if it relied upon a reasonable interpretation of the public health order at issue and, upon learning of the Ordinance violation, cured the violation within 30 days.

Continue Reading Chicago Approves Landmark COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance

As Illinois (with the exception of Chicago) reopens today, Illinois employers should be aware of Governor Pritzker’s released Phase 3 Guidelines for Reopening Business and Returning People to Work Safely.  The guidelines are designed to help businesses and employers to implement safety measures and bring some employees back to work.  The guidelines are organized by industry and include toolkits with signage, training checklists, and other resources to ensure business and activities are conducted in accordance with the latest public health recommendations.  The guidelines are further broken down into “minimum guidelines” and “encouraged best practices.”  The following minimum guidelines are uniform across all industries:

  • All employees who can work from home should condition to do so;
  • Employees should wear cloth face coverings over their nose and mouth when within 6 feet over others;
  • Social distance of at least 6 feet should be maintained between non-household individuals unless participating in activities permitted under Phase III guidelines;
  • Employers should provide hand washing capability or sanitizer to employees and customers (if applicable);
  • Frequent hand washing by employees, and an adequate supply of soap/paper towels and/or disinfectant/hand sanitizer should be available.


Continue Reading Illinois Entering Phase 3 Of Return To Work

Illinois and other states are now on the second week of the extraordinary executive orders colloquially referred to as the “shelter in place” or “stay-at-home” orders.  Illinois’ version, COVID-19 Executive Order 8 (the “Order”), was issued by Governor J.B. Pritzker on March 20, 2020, is effective through at least April 7, 2020, but will likely be extended.  The requirements of the Order, and the practical takeaways from it for employers struggling to remain open for business and protect their workforces, are instructive to employers in any jurisdiction. A Kelley Drye Client Advisory addressing compliance with Stay-at-Home Orders is located here.

As in other states, the Order generally requires all individuals living in Illinois to stay at home unless they are leaving their home for Essential Activities, Essential Government Functions, or to Operate Essential Businesses and Operations. As summary of Essential Businesses and Operations is contained below.


Continue Reading Lessons from Illinois’ Shelter in Place Orders